SUMMARY: There are so few ways she can help.
CHARACTERS: Cuddy, House, Wilson.
RATING: R for language and themes.
WARNINGS: Details the aftermath of events in Bad Company, a rough, violent story. Aftermath isn't always pretty; may distress some readers. Adult themes and adult language.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Never will.
NOTES: The pieces of this shattered story are numbered. The first number signifies the number of days that have elapsed since the original event in Bad Company; the second number signifies when the fic occurs during that day.
No amount of medical training could have prevented the shockwave of nausea that struck her when they wheeled James Wilson through those sliding doors. Had she not known it was him, she'd never have guessed. In retrospect she thinks she might actually have gotten sick, had House not so effectively distracted her.
He thinks he's hiding now, locked securely in Wilson's darkened office. As if the Dean of Medicine doesn't have a master key.
There's a reading lamp pointing at the sofa where House lies asleep, in the middle of a snowdrift of paper. It all looks medical: journals, reprinted articles, and things he's pulled off the internet. The sheets are scattered over the floor, the furniture, and across his chest. Cuddy crouches carefully at House's side and reads what she can.
Everything here is about Wilson. Everything. The latest news in surgery and rehabilitation for badly broken hands. Advanced techniques for nasal reconstruction. Recipes for liquid meals for ... oh, House.
She wants to embrace him, wants to soothe him, wants to reward him for trying. He'd never allow it, though. The only reward he'll accept is her willingness to help him take care of his friend, to understand his demands for what they are.
She'd been looking for him so she could make him do something other than sit around moping and torturing himself. Clinic duty, a fresh case—something to keep him from drowning. Turns out House is a step or two ahead of her, as he so often is; he has already chosen the best possible lifeline. There's no way she'll try to take it from him.
Cuddy stands up again, looking him over. His greying hair and the lines on his face do not make him look any less like a forlorn, orphaned boy. The urge to touch him, to try and be gentle, tender with him, is almost unbearable—and completely foolish. She won't touch; she won't wake him at all. He's lost so much sleep already.
She goes to the door and turns the knob with great care, so as not to make a sound.
Wilson isn't awake either.
It's unsettling how empty, how bereft of visitors his room always is. There's plenty of stuff, and she supposes that's much better than nothing, but it isn't what she wants for him. It's less than he deserves.
The nurses have put a cart in here to hold some of the things, gifts from patients who've learned that Wilson was hurt. A little girl has sent him a plush yellow unicorn; a boy (or maybe House) has given Wilson a radio-controlled toy car. There are colorful cards, a few bouquets of flowers, even a candle or two. It's a little rolling shrine full of warmth, fuzziness, and sympathetic words—everything House hates, except for the car. She hopes House won't wreck it, won't try to take the gifts away or poison their meaning somehow.
All those virtual strangers love Wilson, but only once has she come in and found someone else at his side, and that was Chase. She knows perfectly well that House visits, because of the complaints from the nursing staff, but she has never caught him in the act and she's certain that's how House wants it. That's not what's so upsetting.
The problem is that no one knows where the hell Wilson's family is. She's called his parents, left messages which no one has answered. His brother said he's in the middle of a huge company project and can't leave California. No, he wasn't sure where his mom and dad had gone. He thought this might have been the month of their cruise down the Rhine. No, he didn't know when they'd be back; please tell James he said hello and is thinking of him, hoping for his quick recovery.
Sure he is, sniped a voice in her mind, so he can stop feeling guilty.
She might even have called his ex-wives, if she had any numbers for them, but she does not. Wilson's cell phone was lost in the attack. When she asks House, he claims not to have that information either, although he almost certainly does. She's not sure whether to be frustrated or touched by his refusal to help her contact Wilson's exes. It's either selfish or it's loyal and protective. Of course, this being House, it's probably some bizarre combination of both.
Wilson's starting to vaguely resemble himself again. He's still several shades of wrong colors, dark as an approaching storm, but the structure of his face is re-emerging as the swelling recedes. Also, one of the nurses has shaved him. The electric razor sits on the bedside table. That probably hurt a bit, and Wilson probably didn't care.
She sits down in that awful chair, making a mental note to have it replaced with something softer. As gently as she can, she picks up Wilson's right hand. Before all this happened, she can't recall the last time she ever touched him. He's so injured now that his hand is the only part she dares to ... to caress, she supposes is the word, though it seems strange to think of it that way. To think of James Wilson as someone who might want such a thing. Yet he has never pulled away from her when she does this. She strokes with her thumb, in a slow, easy rhythm.
Wilson sighs in his sleep, curling his fingers around hers.
He's never seemed to need anything before, not even when the earthquakes hit his own life and shook it apart. Either that or she was so busy trying to keep House alive and working that—no, that's a pointless thought. What matters is what she can do for Wilson now. Every day she has done this, taken his hand and tried to think of something. Every day she has failed.
Now, all at once, she knows. The best thing she can do for Wilson is to take care of House.